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New York Post
More Money, More Problems
BY Sandra Guzmn
January 12, 2005
TEGO CALDERN is putting his money where his mike is. The king of reggaetn, who, as reported on these pages last month, was tapped by P.Diddyto be part of the Sean John spring collection ad campaign, turned down the King of Bling because he found out that Combs high-end apparel company is allegedly running sweatshops in Central America and he felt personally disrespected by Puffys offer.
Speaking to us via phone from his home in Puerto Rico, the politically conscious and hugely popular Puerto Rican rapper told us that there were several reasons why he passed on the opportunity to be associated with the millionaire rap mogul.
"I heard about the human rights violations in his clothing factories in Central America but frankly there was more," explained the artist. "Me falt el respeto, [he dissed me] with his offer. I just did a $75,000 commercial in Puerto Rico with Nydia Caro. Someone like Puffy could have offered more than $2,000 - but again, it wasnt about the money. I was not persuadable. It was about the principle."
Tego, who is currently in the studio recording his next album (due out this summer), expressed his displeasure with the whole episode: "Its the principle. I dont think he [Puffy] knows what I am about."
"What hurts me the most is that my colleagues accepted the offer [to do the ad campaign], thinking that it was a great opportunity. This was about respecting us, and what we do."
The hot-as-cakes artist admits that his decision cost him the promised "Time Square billboard and exposure to mainstream America and MTVs and VH1s audiences" - but he was resolute.
"Forgive me, but I dont need Time Square, I dont need a billboard. I am not trying to conquer white Middle America. I already won the hearts and respect of those I wanted to win - mi gente Latina, my people, the street, my black brothers and sisters," said the defiant rapper.
Caldern, fielding blockbuster offers for multi-million-dollar recording contracts, also dropped exclusive news - he is not signing with a major label, a decision that will cost him major money.
"I aint trying to be no employee, I have worked too hard to build what I have," he said. He added that, to the chagrin of his entire crew, he will only accept a distribution deal (with a major label).
"Ive never been a good employee. I dont like anyone telling me what to do. Yup, I will lose millions ... but I keep my freedom.
"I cant say in my songs one thing, and then personally be about something else," he said. "Now that someone is offering me some change, Im going to go against the principles that my viejos (parents) taught me? Nah."
Finally, he added, "I am surprised that this got out, this was a very personal decision."
News that Diddys apparel company was allegedly exploiting workers did not surprise Charles Kernaghan, the head of the National Labor Committee. His group, which monitors apparel working conditions in Third World countries found Combs Honduras shops were violating basic human and workers rights back in 2003.
"The Honduras situation was horrific," said Kernaghan. "They were giving young women pregnancy tests every month, locking bathrooms all day, no health insurance, and verbally and sometimes physically abusing them."
Only a threat of protest in December of 2003 got the rapper and his people to negotiate.
"To his credit, Mr. Combs transformed the Setisa [Honduras] factory. He deserves enormous praise," says the labor leader. "But that victory could have been extended. He chose to clean up and stop at one."
Meanwhile, Daddy Yankee, another reggaetn rapper, who did agree to be part of the labels advertising campaign, said through his management company that he was not aware of any new claims.
"We knew about past allegations [in Honduras] but thought that it was all cleaned up. The new situation is news to us," says Anthony Ramirez, of Daddy Yankees management team.
Ramirez says that presently they are reviewing other promotional offers and will do more "homework" in the future.
P.Diddy defended his award-winning fashion line though a statement issued by his COO, Todd Kahn.
"Sean John has long had very strict policies with which all of its vendors are required to comply. Our compliance team inspects and certifies all of our factories around the globe. We have absolutely zero tolerance for non-compliance with our policies."
Tego Calderon (with chain) and P. Diddy (in grey) are at odds over alleged Sean John "sweatshops" in Central America. (Rex Dittman, Steve Granitz/Wireimage)